Cleaning up Dirty Diesel School Buses

February 22, 2008

by Mark Bishop, HSC Deputy Director

Cleaning up dirty diesels may have just gotten a step easier in Illinois.

In Illinois, there are more than 18,000 buses that transport over 2 million school children to and from school every day.  While riding on a school bus is generally a safe way for a student to travel to school, diesel exhaust from school buses can pose a significant health threat to school children, drivers and school staff. 

As a recent news report shows, exposure to diesel exhaust outside and inside a school bus poses serious risks to both children and adults.   

Two months ago, a group lead by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, including HSC, Citizen Action Illinois, Illinois Environmental Council, and the Illinois School Nurse Association met with the Illinois EPA to discuss their funding of the Illinois Clean School Bus Program. Their response was to apply for a $1 million grant to retrofit Chicago area diesel buses.

We applaud the Agency’s commitment to finding funding for this important health issue. At the same time, we realize that even if this grant is approved, this will only provide funds to retrofit 350, or less than 2 percent, of the school buses currently in use in Illinois.

Cleaning up diesel school buses is a matter of health.

Creating a stable and consistent fund for schools to retrofit their diesel bus fleets will go a long way to improving student health. One such initiative is going on through the Respiratory Health Association’s Clean Diesel Campaign. There are also two current Illinois state bills that would create a dedicated funding source to clean up diesel engines; check out the Senate Bill or House Bill.

As a proud member of the Clean Diesel Campaign, we urge you to learn about the dangers involved in diesel exhaust and to speak up for clean air in and around our school buses.